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Comprehensive Exam

At the beginning of the second year of study CSD graduate students will begin preparing for the Comprehensive Exam. It is highly recommended that the student carefully read the Graduate Student Handbook on Comprehensive Examination policies and deadlines, and pick up a packet of instructions and forms from the Graduate School well ahead of the planned examination so all required paperwork can be completed on time. Completed paperwork must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than two weeks prior to the examination date.

Note: A student must be registered at the time he/she takes the Comprehensive Examination.

Students must take the Graduate School Comprehensive Examination for admission to candidacy for the CSD Ph.D. by the end of the summer of their second year but before January 1st of the third year. Any deviation to this requirement must have approval from the PI, Graduate Advisory Committee, and the Program Director. The Comprehensive Examination Committee shall consist of a minimum of five Graduate Faculty members. At least one of the members must be outside the Programs core training faculty. The majority of the members, including the chair, must be from the core training faculty of the CSD Program. Students should contact members of the Graduate Faculty whom they wish to be on their committee, in consultation with the Director of the Program and their thesis advisor. Students should inform the committee members of their background, the topic of their thesis research and their preliminary results. In addition, the student arranges the time and location of the exam, and informs the members of the committee that the examination requires three hours. The student should provide the GAC with the names of the committee members.

The examination will have as its focus a thesis research proposal written by the student using the format of a NIH predoctoral fellowship. Although preliminary data collected by the student are helpful, it is not essential for the proposal. The written proposal must be distributed to the Comprehensive Exam Committee at least two weeks prior to the examination. The student must adequately demonstrate the scientific knowledge and ability to defend this proposal, as well as satisfying the overall requirements for the examination as set forth by the UCD-AMC Graduate Student Handbook. The examination will consist of a 30-45 minute seminar by the student, general questions from the audience and then detailed questions from the Thesis Committee. As stated in the graduate student handbook, the comprehensive examination "will test your mastery of a broad field of knowledge, not merely the formal course work completed." The student should consult with his or her committee members prior to the exam as to the subject areas each member expects the student to have mastered.

Written proposal (NRSA format)

Listed below are guidelines for the proposal:       

Short Introduction and Specific Aims
Research Strategy
     Any preliminary data
     Experimental Design & Methods
     Expected Results & Interpretation
     Alternative Approaches

1.0 page
6.0 pages
Total​ ​7.0 pages​

Literature citations are additional to the 7 pages. Full references with titles are required.

The written proposal must be given to all members of the committee at least two weeks before the comprehensive exam.

The Exam

The candidate for the PhD should prepare a talk of 30 minutes on his/her thesis proposal and preliminary results. The talk will be open to the university community. After the talk, questions from those in attendance will be requested. After the questions have been addressed, all but the graduate faculty and the Comprehensive Examination Committee will be requested to leave. There will be two types of questions from the committee:

      1. Questions on the written and oral proposal: ~ 1hr.
      2. General knowledge questions primarily from the course work of the candidate: ~ 1hr.

After the questions the candidate will be asked to leave, and the committee will discuss the results of the different exam components and reach a recommendation. The committee chair will bring the recommendations of the committee back to the candidate and fill out the appropriate forms of the Graduate School.

      Possible Results
    • Pass (no conditions)
    • Conditional Pass (conditions must be detailed)
    • Continuation of examination (comments must be included)
    • Fail (the student must leave the graduate program)

Application to the Graduate School for Admission to Candidacy

Applications must be completed no later than three weeks before the exam. Forms are available from the Graduate School and must be approved by the Program Director and returned to the Graduate School Office. The date of the Comprehensive examination and the composition of the committee must be registered with the Graduate School. The student must have a minimum of 30 credit hours prior to the exam date.

Once a student has passed the Comprehensive Exam, he/she should register for CSD Thesis Research (CSDV 8990) instead of CSDV 7650. A student may register for up to 10 units of thesis research in the semesters before and the semester in which the comprehensive exam is taken and passed.

For additional information, please consult the CSD Student Handbook